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Starting later in life

April 11th, 2004 · 2 Comments

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution today linked to a New York Times article Educators Flocking to Finland, Land of Literate Children that tried to explain the success of schools in Finland:

Finland topped a respected international survey last year, coming in first in literacy and placing in the top five in math and science

What intrigued me most was the fact that students do not start school until age seven. It reminded me of books I had read last year which encouraged waiting until later to start formal education: Home Grown Kids and The Hurried Child. Perhaps delaying the start of schooling allows kids to catch up to each other in skills and readiness, thereby encouraging interest in education. If it’s not as frustrating at first, students might get more excited about school from the start.

I liked the other descriptions I read about education in Finland.

After every 45-minute lesson, they are let loose outside for 15 minutes so they can burn off steam. Others are allowed to practice their music, and they file into classrooms, sling electric guitars across their chests or grab drumsticks and jam.

Children here start school late on the theory that they will learn to love learning through play.


At first, the 7-year-olds lag behind their peers in other countries in reading, but they catch up almost immediately and then excel. Experts cite several reasons: reading to children, telling folk tales and going to the library are activities cherished in Finland. Lastly, children grow up watching television shows and movies (many in English) with subtitles. So they read while they watch TV.

So long as schools stick to the core national curriculum, which lays out goals and subject areas, they are free to teach the way they want. They can choose their textbooks or ditch them altogether, teach indoors or outdoors, cluster children in small or large groups.

While there are no programs for gifted children, teachers are free to devise ways to challenge their smartest students. The smarter students help teach the average students. “Sometimes you learn better that way,” said Pirjo Kanno, the principal in Suutarila.

Finnish education seems to share some of the same principles and practices as homeschooling 🙂

Tags: news

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 ladygoat // Apr 12, 2004 at 6:30 am

    I find the idea of starting kids at 7 really interesting, especially since kids these days not only start school at 5 but often now go to pre-school starting at 3, and before they can talk are surrounded by toys that are supposed to be educational and give them a head-start on school. Everything kids do just seems so directed these days.

  • 2 Jenny Ingram // Apr 14, 2004 at 11:14 pm

    I was happy to see this Julie. We recently decided to keep Joel from entering kindergarten next year – eventhough he will be 5 this summer. Nearly all of his buddies his age are going next year. Honestly, we still seriously considering homeschooling anyway… But thanks for your insight and references. I know Joel will excel when he’s ready, and he has so few years to really be a kid. We want him to enjoy learning and to enjoy the fleeting freedoms of childhood:) I want to add that parenting magazine printed an article about boys in kindergarten. I found it helpful for me – the link is: http://www.singlesexschools.org/lostboys.html
    Thanks Julie – I really enjoy reading your entries. Jenny